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Mughal, period of Jahangir (1605-1627 A.D.)
The cup made of three separate emerald sections, the thinly carved hexagonal bowl with six wheel-cut hexagonal lattice patterned sides within chevron design rim and borders, the knopped stem and domed base with similar decoration, the base hollowed out and infilled with gold to give the cup ballast, the base with guilloché enamel decoration, the stem with central gold rod, very slight chips to rim
Cup 2 7/8in. (7.2cm.) high, bowl 2 1/8in. (5.3cm.) diameter, foot 1¼in. (3cm.) diameter
bowl alone 408.5 carats; overall 119.1g
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Lot Essay

This remarkable cup is the largest and most magnificent Mughal emerald cup ever to have been published, let alone offered on the market. The size, colour and clarity of the stone from which it is carved are exceptional; this has then been carved with a delicacy remarkable for a stone which is so brittle.

Its hexagonal form is a direct result of its mineral qualities. Emerald and aquamarine are colour varieties of the silicate mineral known as beryl. It crystallises as six-sided prisms, although frequently they have sides of slightly uneven length. The craftsmen who made this cup thus followed the prismatic quality of what was an exceptionally large emerald crystal. It is also interesting to note that, while the top has been made by the craftsman into a perfect hexagon, the underside of the bowl is slightly irregular, probably reflecting the original crystal.

Comparable examples
Three other Indian emerald cups have been published, each of which is very different to the others. One is in the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait (Manuel Keene and Salam Kaoukji, Treasury of the World, London, 2001, no.11.11, p.133). Carved integrally with a short flaring foot, it is of a stone that is much more included, and also smaller than the present example. The bowl is of similar form to ours but stiffer in outline. The decoration comprises Persian verses engraved in bold elegant naskh but it is otherwise plain. It is attributed to "India, Deccan or Mughal, later 16th-17th century".

A second example has a clear Indian provenance, originating in the Sikh treasury in Lahore (T.H.Hendley, The Journal of Indian Art, Vol.XII, nos.95-117, Indian Jewellery, July 1909, no.1016, pl.141). Brought back by Lord Dalhousie to England after the annexation of the Punjab and sale of the Lahore toshkhana of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1849, it was placed on view in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Susan Stronge, 'The Sikh Treasury', in Kerry Brown (ed.), Sikh Art and Literature, London, 1999, p.83). Offered for sale at Christie's in 1921, it was purchased prior to the sale by the Government of India and is now in the Indian Museum, Calcutta. Of hemispherical form on green enamelled gold stem it is undecorated save for the inset gold mounts. It has been tentatively dated to the eighteenth century.

The third is on loan to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery from the National Museum of American Art (Art News, March 23, 1929, pp.1-2).The bowl is of similar form to our cup, but circular rather than hexagonal, and not as deep. It is carved to the exterior with an overall lozenge lattice containing small stylised motifs. It has an added handle which is not original (or emerald). Of paler and more included colour than the present cup it is 5.1cm. diam. at the mouth.

There is also a massive 17th century European carved emerald cup, made from a Colombian stone which weighed 2680 carats, attributed to Dionysio Miseroni (Manfred Leithe-Jasper and Rudolf Distelberger, The Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna; The treasury and the Collection of Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Vienna, p.29).

Of these, the present cup resembles closest the Washington cup, both in form with the slightly flaring rim and in the overall surface lattice. The carving here is however much finer and more regular. The overall hexagonal lattice is difficult to parallel on Mughal hardstone vessels. It is found on one unpublished rock crystal bowl in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is also the major decoration on a crystal dagger hilt attributed to the early eighteenth century but very probably earlier, formerly on the London market (Silk and Stone, the Art of Asia, the Third Hali Annual, London, 1996, p.212, Maharukh Desai advertisement). It is just possible that the design ultimately derived from Sassanian glass vessels on which it is the most frequently encountered motif.

Contemporary evidence
In his account of the contents of the Mughal Treasury in 1610, probably relying on information supplied by the Jesuits, among entries such as "Ballace rubies, little and great, good and bad, 2,000 pieces" Captain William Hawkins noted one entry "Drinking cups (Fifty of these very rich, being made of one piece of Ballace Ruby, and also of Emerods, of Eshim, of Turkish stone, and of other sorts of stones), 500 pieces" (Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus posthumus, or, Purchas his pilgrimes : contayning a history of the world in sea voyages and lande travells by Englishmen and others, London, 1625, reprinted Glasgow, 1905-7, vol.III, p.33, quoted in Abdul Aziz, The Imperial Treasury of the Indian Mughuls, Delhi, 1972, p.525). That the treasury contained numerous cups, although the material is not mentioned, is indicated by a quote from the Tuzuk-i Jahangiri, the Memoirs of Jahangir "On Thursday the 6th I went to the throne-place of the late king Babar. As I was to leave Kabul on the next day I looked on that day as a feast day and ordered them to arrange a wine-party on the spot and fill with wine the littel reservoir they had cut in the rock. Cups were given to all the courtiers and servants who were present and few days have passed in such enjoyment and pleasure" (The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, or memoirs of Jahangir translated by Alexander Rogers ; edited by Henry Beveridge, 2nd edition, London, 1968, vol.I, p.121).

Visual evidence is also very clear. A miniature from a now dispersed copy of the Tuzuk-i Jahangiri and now in the British Museum shows the weighing of prince Khurram (J.M.Rogers, Mughal Miniatures, London, 1992, pl.58, pp.91-2 and cover among many others). In the centre of the painting is an array of textiles together with four trays with objects and jewellery. One of the trays, as well as six jewelled gold vessels contains two small green cups which must be emerald. This miniature was painted only a few years after the Hawkins entry noted above. A number of other miniatures show small drinking cups which appear to be of precious stones, but none show emerald cups as clearly as this one.

Jahangir was known to love precious stones; the Tuzuk-i Jahangiri is full of notes about the jewels and jewelled objects that are given and received. Most references are relatively short, but when a stone is outstanding the entry can be very full, such as the description of the spinel noted in the footnote to lot 139 in this sale. Emeralds are not mentioned as often as diamonds and particularly rubies, but still appear numerous times. He notes for example "Along with [the jewelled dagger presented by Mir Jamal ud-Din Husain] were other rubies of approved colour and old emeralds (Tuzuk-i Jahangiri, Vol.I, p.318), while on another occasion he comments "Another was an emerald, also among [Ibrahim] 'Adil Khan's offerings. Although it is from a new mine it is of such a beautiful colour and delicacy as I have never before seen" (Tuzuk-i Jahangiri, vol.I, p.400).

Emeralds in India
Emeralds do appear to have been used in India before the discovery of the New World mines, but their quality was not nearly as good. A contemporary jeweller noted the "there are no [emeralds] throughout all India, yet it is reported that some have been found there, but [verie] few & not often: but they are much brought thether from Cairo in Aegypt, and are likewise called Orientall: they are much esteemed in India because there are so few of them" (Jan Huygen van Linschoten, The voyage of John Huyghen van Linschoten to the East Indies : from the old English translation of 1598, .. edited by A.C. Burnell and P.A. Tiele, London, 1885, vol.II, p.140, quoted in Abdul Aziz, op.cit, p.306). Writing later, the jeweller Tavernier was even more explicit "As for the emerald, it is an error of many people to suppose that it was originally found in the East because before the discovery of America they could not believe otherwise" (Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Travels in India, trans. V.Ball, ed. W.Crooke, Oxford and London, 1925, pp.81-2). As noted under lot 191, the Indians rapidly became the biggest customers for these magnificent stones from the new mines in South America (presumably exactly those referred to above by Jahangir). And until 1613 the Portuguese were happy to ship them to Goa charging on the majority of stones "no duty whatsoever" (Nuno Vassallo e Silva, "Jewels and Gems in Goa from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century", in Susan Stronge, The Jewels of India, Marg, Bombay, 1995, p.55). The emerald used in the present cup is certainly of Colombian origin which had come to India through the agency of the Portuguese in Goa.

The European Connection
The later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries saw a substantial increase in the number of Europeans visiting the Mughal Court. As just seen, many of them came as merchants selling precious stones amongst other things. The immediate influence exerted by the works of art they brought with them on the local work is clear in a number of fields. Some of the miniatures of the period directly depict these visitors and their fashions. Miniatures were also painted which are direct copies of Dutch woodcuts. The same effect was also found in jewellery design. At the end of Akbar's reign a miniature was painted of Prince Salim, the future emperor Jahangir, holding a hat ornament of a type clearly identifiable as European and very close in concept to designs from the workshop of Arnold Lulls, a Dutch supplier of jewellery to the English Court (Susan Stronge, A Golden Treasury, London, 1988, figs. 9 and 10, pp.33-34). Europeans did not just act as merchants at this time; many actually took service under the Mughals. As early as 1584, William Leeds, an English gem expert. accepted service under the emperor Akbar who "gave him an house and five slaves, an horse, and every day six S.S. [shillings] in money" (Ralph Fitch in W.Foster (ed.), Early Travels in India, London, 1583-1619, reprinted Delhi, 1968, p.18, quoted in Ahsan Jan Qaisar, The Indian Response to European Technology and Culture (A.D. 1498-1707), Delhi, 1982, p.79).

Amongst spectacles, looking-glasses, pipe-smoking and hour-glasses enamelling appears to have been another European import at this time. Manual Keene discusses the appearance of enamelling in India in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, particularly with reference to a ring in the Al-Sabah Collection (Keene and Kaoukji, op.cit, pp.62-3, esp.no.6.1). This ring, whose form is of Timurid inspiration, has gold scrolling leaves of notably European form set against a white opaque enamel ground. The form of the leaves, notably with their pronounced fleshy scrolling terminals, is very similar to that of the leaves engraved under the green enamel on the underside of the present cup. Again, as on the Al-Sabah ring, they are arranged around a central rosette. Other examples exist which show some of the same tendencies, such as an archer's ring with enamelled interior in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Stronge, 1988 op.cit., no.93, p.94), but not as clearly as on these two examples. It seems very probable therefore that the enamelled decoration on the underside of this cup was fashioned by a European craftsman working at the Mughal court.

Whether the grinding of the emerald itself was done by a European or Indian is more open to question. Europeans worked at the Mughal Court cutting, carving and polishing stones, as is shown by the examples above, by various references in Tavernier, many of whom note the superiority of the European cutting to that of the Indian. The presence of European hardstone carvers is also evidenced by a number of remaining works of art. A series of cameos and bas-reliefs are all thougth to be the work of European craftsmen at the Mughal Court (Robert Skelton et al.: The Indian Heritage, exhibition catalogue, London, 1982, nos.375-377).

Whether carved by a European or Indian, this cup is an exquisite piece of craftsmanship. The evenness and crispness of the hexagonal depressions, even when they have to be slightly adjusted to accommodate slight irregularities in the underlying surface, is superb. Similarly, the thinness to which the rim has been carved is remarkable bearing in mind how friable is the base material. The subtlety of the enamelling on the underside, not allowing anything to be taken away from the emerald stone, but allowing for the insertion of a gold "plug" to give the cup much greater stability, is exceptional.

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